Sussex County teenager creates program to help feed hungry classmates

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There are many children in New Jersey who rely on a school breakfast and lunch program to keep them fed. But what do these children do on the weekends when they get hungry?

There is one Sussex County high school student who is doing her part to make sure that her fellow classmates do not go hungry.

Newton High School senior Isobel Costello, 17, started the Weekend Bag Program. It provides food and toiletries to school children. When she started the program four years ago, she mainly provided high school students with 28 bags per week. She now serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I do 60 to 70 bags per week,” Costello says.

Costello took News 12 New Jersey down into her family’s basement in Andover to see what has become the program’s food pantry.

"Pasta noodles go in every week. Pasta sauce, mac & cheese, ramen, canned soup,” Costello says. "I'm down here most Sunday night and Monday night. That's when I'm sorting."

Costello delivers to six schools locally. She says that she got the idea after listening to classmates in the hallways of school when she was a freshman.

"They were uncomfortable coming to school because they didn't feel comfortable in their clothes. They were hungry, they couldn't focus. They didn't like being there,” she says.

Costello’s family says that the endeavor has changed them. Everyone is now taking party, especially Costello’s’ mother, Dawn. And when Costello goes off to college, her sisters will take over. Costello’s mom says that the bag program is in their lives daily.

"Whether we get a request coming in or, ‘Can you speak to a PTA meeting?’ Or, ‘Hey, tissues are on sale,” Dawn says.

They get the food from donations but sometimes it is lean, which forces the family to reach into their own pockets. But Dawn Costello says that the help they provide to hungry children and for what it's teaching her girls, it is worth it.

“They know humbleness. They know gratitude. She knows money isn’t everything,” says Dawn.

The Costellos say that they can't imagine stopping the program, which runs during the entire school year. The Weekend Bag Program has been recognized as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

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